canned herring

5 Best Canned Herring of 2023 (With Buyer’s Guide)

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Enjoy herring but dislike the preparation time and mess when cooking this delicious seafood? Then you should try canned herring. Canned herring is nutritious, hygienic, easy to prepare, and extremely convenient. Just open a can and enjoy!

But which brand should you go with? What is the best canned herring? Canned herring is available in multiple qualities, but you should always pick a brand that provides the right balance of flavor, nutrition, and quantity. We suggest that you try brands like King Oscar, Appels, Polar, and more.

Read below to learn more about canned herring, the multiple varieties of canned herring, and our recommendations for the best canned herring in the market!

Canned vs. Fresh Herring

Herring has been an extremely popular food source for generations. Due to the size and nutritional value of this marine species, humans have used herring as one of the primary sources of proteins and other crucial nutrients. 

Back in the old days, herring was usually only available fresh. Shops that sold herring used to put the meat under ice to keep it fresh. 

fresh herring on ice

Smoked herring was also an extremely popular option for many due to its delicious taste and light, tender meat. Today, herring can be found in many varieties and is usually sold fresh, frozen, cooked, and canned. 

The process of canning food brought on a revolution in the food industry as it allowed food to be stored in simple ways without even requiring refrigeration. 

Canning involves removing air and submerging food in brine or any liquid solution that inhibits the growth of bacteria. In the case of herring, you will commonly find this fish in oil, water, or even wine solution.

The best part is that the difference between canned and fresh herring is also negligible. Since canned herring is usually cooked and immediately canned, you get all the flavor and texture qualities that you would expect from fresh herring. 

Canned herring, when compared to the fresh variety, is extremely convenient as you don’t need to prepare the meat in any way.

Canning Process for Fresh Herring

Canneries (factories where food is canned) use specific processes to can meat or generally any type of food. The process for herring is very simple and involves three steps:

  1. Cleaning and Deboning
  2. Flavoring and Processing
  3. Packaging

Cleaning and Deboning

Fresh herring arrive in bulk in temperature-controlled vehicles at the factory. The fish are washed to remove any residue and then skinned. 

Butchers carefully remove sharp bones but leave the big ones intact because they will provide structure to the meat in the later steps. Once the meat is washed and cut into large pieces, the pieces are then sent on a conveyor belt that transports it to the flavoring department.

Flavoring and Processing

The large herring pieces are smoked for some time using specific ingredients. These ingredients can vary from one manufacturer to the other – and the specifics of the smoking process are kept under wraps for secrecy. 

flavoring and processing

After the herring pieces have been smoked, they are sent to another deboning station where the large bones are removed from the meat. Removing the bones during this step prevents the meat from breaking apart.

After the meat has been deboned, the pieces are sent to the packaging station.


This is where the magic of canning happens. The large pieces are filled in cans along with a brining solution that can either be oil, water, or any other acidic solution. The brine creates a barrier that prevents the meat from going bad.

The barrier keeps the meat hydrated and discourages bacterial growth. Smoked herring stored in oil can also provide an added flavor! Although neutral oils are used in the canning process, the oil still adds a layer of flavor that works well with the smokey notes in the meat.

The cans are topped with a lid and the extra headspace is used to create a vacuum seal. The cans are washed and then sent to a large industrial pressure cooker that pressurizes the can and helps create a pressure seal.

The sealed cans are left to cool down for 2-3 hours and then they are labeled and shipped! The entire process takes a few hours which means that you get the freshest herring meat possible. 

Picking the Right Canned Herring

To many people, all brands that produce herring may look the same – but the devil is in the details! 

See, while many brands produce canned herring, only a few of them truly produce a product that is healthy and nutritious. The truth behind canned herring is that there are many sneaky tactics that some manufacturers can use to bring the cost down; unfortunately, this also brings down the overall quality of the product.

Here are three things that you need to look out for when shopping for canned herring:

Quality Ingredients 

Check the back of any canned herring to get an idea about its quality. If the product has a long list of chemicals, then you are better off with another canned herring product. 

When it comes to canned herring, you only need a combination of smoked meat, water/brine, salt, and an optional stabilizer – anything more would indicate that the meat is of low quality and chemicals are being used to compensate.

You should also keep an eye out for the sodium content. If you have dietary restrictions, it is always best to go with a product that offers less sodium – don’t worry, low-sodium canned herring also tastes great!

Naturally Smoked vs. Flavored

This is probably the biggest red flag when it comes to canned herring. There is a difference between naturally smoked food and using liquid smoke to add an artificial smokey flavor to the meat.

fresh herring

If you want the highest quality canned herring, then always go with meat that is naturally smoked. Sure, artificially flavored herring can taste great, but you will be swapping out the nutritional benefits of the meat for a not-so-great flavor!

An easy way to check for this is to look at the description or ingredient list of the product. For the best experience, avoid any canned herring product that contains artificial flavors. 

Texture and Variety

Canned herring is particularly tender and can break apart easily compared to fresh herring. This textural change is due to the canning process, but some brands offer a superior texture by using advanced canning processes.

Canned herring is also available in many different varieties and can be packaged with a special sauce like tomato, dill and herb cream, and more! Our recommendations below contain a variety of canned herrings that provide not just great flavor but a mouthwatering texture as well. 

5 Best Canned Herring Brands

Here are our recommendations for the best canned herring:

RankBrand/Product NameDescription
1MW Polar Herring Smoked in Canola OilClassic option for naturally smoked herring lovers. Canned in canola oil, preserving the texture and flavor. Easy to break apart and ready to eat straight from the can.
2King Oscar Kipper Snacks Smoked Herring FilletsPerfect for toast points, sandwiches, and more. Premium quality fillets sustainably caught. Balanced flavor and excellent mouthfeel.
3Appel Herring Fillets in Dill and Herb CreamUnique marinated herring fillets with high-quality dill and herb cream. Ready to eat, made from top ingredients. Appel also offers tomato sauce canned herring.
4Pampa Herring Fillets in OilClassic choice with fillets processed in rapeseed oil, preserving the meat’s texture and flavor. Naturally smoked and perfect for those wanting affordable and tasty seafood.
5Bar Harbor Cracked Pepper HerringIdeal for those seeking natural canned herring. Made from grade “A” meat and simple natural ingredients. Best for seafood enthusiasts who want organic and sustainably-produced seafood.

1. MW Polar Herring Smoked in Canola Oil

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MW Polar Herring Smoked in Canola Oil

This is a classic option for people who like naturally smoked herring. The meat is canned with canola oil that preserves the texture and flavor of the meat. It is also easy to break apart and you can use it immediately, right from the can!

2. King Oscar Kipper Snacks Smoked Herring Fillets

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King Oscar Kipper Snacks Smoked Herring Fillets

Whether it’s toast points, sandwiches, subs, salads, or anything that requires seafood – King Oscar’s smoked herring will instantly become your default choice. 

These fillets are of premium quality and are caught using sustainable methods. They have a very balanced flavor and offer an excellent mouthfeel too!

3. Appel Herring Fillets in Dill and Herb Cream

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Appel Herring Fillets in Dill and Herb Cream

If you want something out of the ordinary, then we highly recommend trying these marinated herring fillets. Flavored using high-quality dill and herb cream, you can use them in a wide variety of dishes! They are ready to eat and are made from high-quality ingredients too. 

Appel also produces other flavored herring products too. If you want to explore more, then you should also check out their tomato sauce canned herring!

4. Pampa Herring Fillets in Oil

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Pampa Herring Fillets in Oil

Here’s another classic! Pampa’s herring fillets are processed using rapeseed oil which preserves the delicate texture and flavor of the meat. 

These fillets are naturally smoked and are a great option for people who want simple, affordable, and delicious seafood.

5. Bar Harbor Cracked Pepper Herring

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Bar Harbor Cracked Pepper Herring

Looking for the best natural canned herring for you and your family? 

Then try Bar Harbor’s Cracked Pepper Herring! Made from grade “A” meat and processed using simple and natural ingredients. This is perhaps the best option for seafood lovers who want an organic and sustainability-produced seafood product. 

Related Questions 

Canned herring provides both convenience and flavor! Now that you know all about the best canned herring, here are some related questions:

Can You Store Leftover Canned Herring in the Fridge?

While we recommend that you consume canned herring within 2-3 hours of opening the can, you can also store it in the fridge for a maximum of 1-2 days at 40F. Please be very careful with seafood as it can go bad very quickly, especially if it isn’t stored at the right temperature. 

Store the fish in the same packaging and keep them submerged in the brining solution. You can also wrap them with cling wrap to protect the meat from other strong-smelling foods.

Can Herring Be Canned at Home?

It is possible to can herring meat at home but ideally, you would need to have canning experience to successfully can any type of food. 

Canning is a challenging process and requires specific equipment and techniques. Since canning failures are common, you should only can food under the supervision of an experienced professional. 

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